OK Go Shows, Once Again, How Content Is Advertising... And How There Are Many Revenue Streams For Musicians

from the needing/getting dept

The band OK Go has made quite a name for itself over the years as a pioneer/innovator in a number of different ways in the music world. The group has become incredibly famous for their videos, each one of which seems to up the difficulty level. Years ago, they had a simple dance video (filmed in one of their backyards, if I remember correctly), which went viral. Then they had the famous dancing treadmill video. There have been a few others, including a massive Rube Goldberg machine, and now they've taken it up a notch with their latest video, which was part of Chevy's Super Bowl commercial for its new Sonic vehicle. They basically used the car -- and a massive amount of setup -- to have the car help them perform a song:
In case you're wondering, there were 55 pianos, 288 guitars, and 1157 of what they describe as "homemade instruments" to make that one work. Also, the video took four months to prepare and four days to shoot... and all of the car driving is actually done by lead singer Damian Kulash, who actually took stunt driving lessons (kinda neat that he can probably write that off as a business expense...). The video description also notes that "each piano had the lowest octaves tuned to the same note so that they'd play the right note no matter where they were struck." Just in case you were wondering.

Of course, beyond just being kinda cool, this hits on a few points that we talk about regularly. First off, it shows how OK Go has continued to do what it set out to do when it freed itself from its EMI contract. Despite their videos getting millions upon millions of views, EMI was too clueless to know how to actually monetize such success. The band figured it could do a better job itself, noting that if you have the fans, there are always ways to make money. The band has also been pretty vocal about being against things like DRM and for things like making it easier for fans to get their music. And, here, they're making money by getting sponsors to help them create their crazy music videos. This isn't a first. The big Rube Goldberg video was sponsored by State Farm.

And, no, no one is saying that every band should get corporate sponsorship (though I'm sure some critics will accuse me of saying exactly that!). It's just that there are all sorts of creative ways for artists to make money these days, and getting some corporate sponsorship is one that gets little attention, but has been growing massively over the past few years. In fact, it was one of the key themes at MIDEM this year, including a fascinating interview of Mark Ronson with Wendy Clark of Coca Cola by Ian Rogers from TopSpin, all about Coca Cola's efforts in the music space.

One of the key things in this is the recognition that content is advertising. Lots of people have recognized the reverse: that advertising is content... but things really open up when you realize that content itself is advertising. And that's something that a lot of brands are recognizing by tying themselves to different content creators, and letting them do cool stuff around their brands. I know that some people find this to be some form of "selling out," but as Ronson points out in the video linked above (and, as I'm sure the folks in OK Go know well) that's pretty silly. Most consumers today know that artists need to make money, and as long as the brand gives them the freedom to be who they are and do what they do, most fans have no problem with these kinds of deals.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Matthew Krum, Feb 6th, 2012 @ 12:31pm

    I'll buy one...

    It worked on me. After this plus the car flipping over the skateboard, I'm sold. :-)

     

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  2.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Feb 6th, 2012 @ 12:56pm

    I'm just amazed at the work that went into this video/performance. And at the outcome.

    Just a wonderful performance, a good song and a great idea all wrapped up into one. No wonder EMI had no idea what to do with it (or the band)!

    18 thumbs up!

     

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  3.  
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    GMacGuffin (profile), Feb 6th, 2012 @ 12:58pm

    Disdain for "selling" out is a fleeting privilege of youth and the envious rationalization of those who have never been paid for their creative output.

    ... If they actually learn to play guitar, that first bar gig where the manager tells them to play one slow song a set, and they do -- well, it's all over from there out. Sold.

     

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  4.  
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    anonymous disenfranchised Dutch coward, Feb 6th, 2012 @ 1:04pm

    2.6

    and a disappointing 2.6 million views. yep they will never get their money back on this one......

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2012 @ 1:05pm

    In the past, that would be called "selling out", except these guys I suspect didn't get paid.

     

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  6.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Feb 6th, 2012 @ 1:08pm

    Re: 2.6

    2,636,175 in less than 24 hours is disappointing?

     

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  7.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Feb 6th, 2012 @ 1:53pm

    Re:

    I'm not sure if they got paid or not. I don't care either. And yeah, in the 1970s this would have been called a sell out but those days are long gone with even the biggest acts in the world having corporate sponsors when they go on tour.

    Even then, as sell outs go, this is a wonderful one. Up there with United Breaks Guitars!

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2012 @ 2:07pm

    Sure this works for a band with the talent to make an interesting commercial, but will it work for pretty boys/girls singing over a recording?

     

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  9.  
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    crade (profile), Feb 6th, 2012 @ 2:46pm

    Re:

    The key to selling out successfully is convincing someone to pay you to do what you wanted to do anyway :)

     

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  10.  
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    The eejit (profile), Feb 6th, 2012 @ 2:57pm

    Re:

    Yes, so long as there are people willing to sell it at the amount others value it at. Just Ask Justin Bieber.

     

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  11.  
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    MBraedley (profile), Feb 6th, 2012 @ 3:39pm

    They're not sell outs

    I know that some people find this to be some form of "selling out"
    Selling out would be signing up with a major record label. This coming from someone far removed from the music industry doesn't mean much, but lucky for me, Jack Conte basically made the same point a while back, coincidentally about the OK Go Rube Goldberg machine video (although he mistakenly credited HP instead of State Farm for that sponsorship). Retaining creative integrity is the opposite of selling out, IMHO.

    In this case, if Chevy wasn't going to provide the money, someone else would have. I think there is some synergy in the name of the vehicle, which obviously made the choice easier. While the cost of this video was probably much higher than some of their other ads, I still think it's marketing dollars well spent.

     

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  12.  
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    Atkray (profile), Feb 6th, 2012 @ 3:46pm

    At least when you sell out to Chevy or State Farm, you have a clear picture up front of what you are getting.

    When you sell out to a Label you get Hollywood accounting in perpetuity.

     

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  13.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Feb 6th, 2012 @ 4:04pm

    The music itself is largely irrelevant

    In my mind OK Go is really a video development company. The videos are attention-grabbing, so they get hired for that. To me the music itself isn't really much to speak of, although I have talked to people who have enjoyed their live shows.

    So I guess it boils down to this: Are their fees for the videos their primary source of income these days? Or are the videos mainly a break-even proposition to drive ticket-purchasing fan to shows?

    It's relevant to the overall discussion of music because some people insist you can't make it in music without being exceptionally musically talented, while others believe a strong marketing sense can trump musical skills (i.e. branding over music).

     

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  14.  
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    chris (profile), Feb 6th, 2012 @ 4:35pm

    Re: The music itself is largely irrelevant

    In my mind OK Go is really a video development company. The videos are attention-grabbing, so they get hired for that.

    who cares? they are making their art and money at the same time. that's all that really matters.

     

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  15.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Feb 6th, 2012 @ 4:52pm

    Re: Re: The music itself is largely irrelevant

    who cares? they are making their art and money at the same time. that's all that really matters.

    It's an on-going topic among musicians and industry writers/advisers. Typically musicians are told to keep practicing music until they can write and perform great stuff. But as OK Go demonstrates, you don't necessarily have to be a great musician to have a career. You probably need to be good at something, but the music itself and your ability to create it could be secondary. In other words, we could say, "Want to be a successful musician? Then learn how to make clever videos."

     

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  16.  
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    chris (profile), Feb 6th, 2012 @ 10:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: The music itself is largely irrelevant

    But as OK Go demonstrates, you don't necessarily have to be a great musician to have a career.

    punk rock demonstrated that almost 40 years ago, and rhetorically, who cares?

    You probably need to be good at something, but the music itself and your ability to create it could be secondary.

    it's never been strictly about musicianship; it's always been about "the scene": stuff like girls, clothes, and venues. LP cover art gets replaced with music videos, but the effect is still the same.

    In other words, we could say, "Want to be a successful musician? Then learn how to make clever videos."

    i guess, if you want to be an OK Go clone.

    without the recording industrial complex behind you, you have you find your own way. it requires original thought.

     

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  17.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Feb 6th, 2012 @ 11:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The music itself is largely irrelevant

    The lines are blurring between what it takes to be a successful musician and what takes to make it in any creative field. I call it "the rise of the creative thing." Kickstarter has popularized the concept of free-standing projects which aren't easily defined by media. You've got musicians who serve dinners to fans to raise money. You've got musicians selling limited edition books to raise money. One artist on Kickstarter was selling lip prints. It's a creative free-for-all, which I like.

    These days everyone is a musician because most of us possess music-making tools that we use to one degree or another (even curation of our music collection has become a form of music creation). And what musicians sell (e.g., clothing, experiences, artwork, performance art) all run together into "creative things," so there's less and less standalone music. It's whatever anyone wants to package it with and the packaging can be more creative than the music. If a musician sells his own line of chocolate, is it the music or the chocolate drives that the sale?

    In time people may think of themselves as "creatives" rather than confining themselves to one particular creative field.

     

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  18.  
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    Niall (profile), Feb 7th, 2012 @ 2:50am

    Re: Re: 2.6

    Want to check your sarcmeter for a flat battery?

     

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  19.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Feb 7th, 2012 @ 10:01am

    Re: Re: Re: 2.6

    No. I thought maybe their old videos go 10 million or something. Was just curious if that was bad for them. I am not really that familiar with them.

     

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  20.  
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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Feb 7th, 2012 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: 2.6

    Ours go to 11 million.

     

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  21.  
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    mike cupcake (profile), Feb 9th, 2012 @ 5:10am

    coca-cola

    If a band I admired did a deal with Coca-Cola I'd seriously consider never giving them my money again

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Coca-Cola

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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